"Highland Rogue, London Miss" by Margaret Moore is a romantic farce set in the regency era about a disgraced Scottish aristocrat and a middle class Edinburgh girl, both of whom have lived in London for the past few years but return to Edinburgh for most of the action of the book. Hence the title is a bit misleading.
The heroine is Esme McCallum, sister of a lawyer who manages his legal practice for him. Her brother Jamie had originally been an Edinburgh solicitor, but relocated his practice to London some five years before the start of the book after being jilted by the daughter of a Scottish earl who did not consider a mere middle class professional good enough for his daughter.
The tale opens in 1817, when the same earl's daughter, Lady Catriona McNair, has asked Jamie to investigate whether someone is robbing her father Lord Duncombe, who has unaccountably hit financial difficulties. Jamie, who is obviously still carrying a torch for her as he takes the commission instead of telling Lady Catriona to take a running jump, comes up with an insane plan to investigate whether anyone is stealing from the Earl of Duncombe.
Jamie's assistant, Quintus MacLachlann, is the disgraced younger brother of the Earl of Dubhagen and extremely similar to his brother in appearance. Lord Dubhagen has lived in the West Indies for many years, where he met and married his wife, Hortense, who nobody in Edinburgh has seen. So Jamie asks Quintus and his sister to impersonate the Earl of Dubhaven and his wife, pretending to be making a return visit to Scotland. While posing as an earl and countess, Quintus and Esme will be able to gain entry to high society in Edinburgh, in a way that Quintus cannot as a disgraced and disinherited younger son and Esme as a mere lawyer's sister could not. Jamie wants them to use this access to investigate the Earl of Duncombe's financial affairs and find out if Lady Catriona's fears that someone is stealing from him are justified.
Quintus and Esme don't get on at all, but despite her reservations Esme agrees out of love for her brother to take part in this hare-brained lunacy. Needless to say the first of many farcical events which follow is that posing as Quintus's wife puts her in a position where all sorts of inappropriate emotions come to the surface ...
A ridiculous and implausible but quite entertaining story.
A positive mark for one accurate historical detail which this book gets right and all too many bestselling regency authors get wrong: the description of policing arrangements in Edinburgh in regency times. Although the first modern English police force, the Metropolitan Police, was not founded until 1829, the creation of uniformed professional police forces in Scotland started more than two decades earlier. Acts of parliament from 1805 created police forces in first Glasgow, then Edinburgh, then many other Scottish towns. When Esme and Quintus have occasion to bring in the legal authorities to investigate a possible crime, the book has a team of two officials turn up, one High Constable and one police officer.
This is historically accurate: in the decade in which this novel is set Edinburgh did indeed have two forces which worked together, the original "High Constables of Edinburgh" who still exist but have since gradually changed to a partly civic and partly ceremonial role, and the Edinburgh police force, then a relatively new organisation which worked with the high constables.
Less plausible is the idea that it would be easy for an Edinburgh soliticor in about 1812 to move his practice to London when unlucky in love: given that the differences between Scots and English law are of long standing I doubt if this would have been much easier in Regency times than it would be today.
Overall this book is very silly indeed but quite enjoyable..